How to Make a Google Drawing a Specific Size for Print or Web

Photo of Borat from the movie in a gray suit and aviators, giving thumbs up with both hands and smiling

The holidays have brought a lot of requests for gift certificates from my customers. I pulled out my stash of fancy paper I purchased for this purpose, which is actually 5.5 inch x 7.75 inch blank invitation paper, with a whimsical .75 inch foil border by Great Papers. The package directed me to masterpiecestudios.com to download the free template at Mountaincow Printing Software. Well, Mountaincow no longer supports Great Papers, and the template provided was a Word document. Being a staunch believer in open source everything, I do not have Word. I use Google Docs and other Google Drive  A quick search revealed that there are no compatible 5.5 inch x 7.75 inch templates that support a .75 inch border in the horizontal format I desired.

So, returning to my Google Drive, I attempted to make a template for my business, and for sharing, too.

Google Docs does not, as of this writing, have a custom paper size option. I could have modified the rulers on an 8.5 x 11 doc, but seeing as I wanted to make a template, this could get messed up too easily by other users playing with the settings. Also, I was concerned at not being able to place text or an image exactly where I wanted.

Google Drawing has no option for image size that I could find, nor any support for making a Drawing a specific size on their help menu that I could find. Thus, I developed this workaround:

1. Determine the size of the document you want to create. Double check it with your own ruler.

2. Is there a border or pre-printed heading or image feature you need to design around? If so, measure how big it is and exactly where on the document it is located.

3. Open MS Paint, or another image-creating software. I use Paint, so this tutorial will focus on the process for people who use Paint. If you use another painting/drawing software, they are pretty simple and similar, so try to follow the best you can.

4. Go in the menu bar at the top, click “Image” and scroll down and click “Attributes”. Here, you can make your drawing a specific size. Choose Inches, Centimeters, or Pixels, based on your needs.

5. Save it as a .png file if you can (or better if using an Adobe product). A file with the extension .png is the highest quality resolution offered in Paint. Even though its blank/white right now, I think it’s a good habit to get into saving files with the best resolution offered, since if you print it or upload it online and it is saved as a .jpeg or similar, it may appear blurry and lacking quality. Save your drawing with a name something like “giftcertificatetemplate.png”. Note where on your computer you saved it. Close the Paint file.

6. Find the Paint file, open it back up, and again, click “Image” and scroll down and click “Attributes”. Double check that the size you desire is the size it got saved as.

7. Open your Firefox or Google Chrome browser. They make everything work right. Explorer and Safari are glitchy and barfy.

8. If you have a google account (Gmail, Google+, etc.), go to Google Drive. If you don’t have a Google account, why the heck not? Google has superior, free, user-friendly products that make our daily lives so much easier. Open one. And for the love of God, please remember to use your Firefox or Google Chrome browser!

9. Create a new Google Drawing file. From the menu bar, click “Insert” and scroll down and click “Image”. Browse and find your “giftcertificatetemplate.png”. Choose it. It should have inserted into the top left corner of your Google Drawing.

10. Using the sizey corner at the bottom right of your Google Drawing, resize the Google Drawing the same size as your inserted white image. You can tell because the Google drawing background is a gray and white check. So resize until you can’t see the gray and white checkers, only your white image. Do your best to make it close, chances are a tiny bit smaller won’t be an issue.

11. Now SAVE. You’ve gotten this far, so by saving your blank drawing, at least you have a document that is the exact size you need your project to be. I like to go to “File” and choose “Make a Copy” as well, so if I mess up my template, I don’t have to repeat steps 1 – 10.

12. It’s all yours! Create the text, insert logos or pictures you need, and design it.

I find the most helpful features on Google Drawings are all the fonts to choose from. If you don’t see any you like, there should be an option on the bottom of your list of fonts to “Add More”. Browse it!

If you go to “Arrange” on the menu toolbar and click “Center”, you can choose to center your text or image horizontally and/or vertically.

If you are going to print it, you can either download and save it to your computer or print it directly from Google Drive. Be aware, when you print from Google Drive, you are basically creating a PDF copy that gets saved to your computer that you can then print. Make sure you know the location where you are saving it. As a default, Adobe Reader will try to fit it to Letter paper size (8.5 x 11). Once you click the print button, be sure to select “actual size” print if your project is smaller than a normal size of paper, or click “Page Setup” and choose your size project or a size larger. If you are using fancy paper, perhaps run a test print on inexpensive paper to see what side of the printer tray to load your fancy paper into, and what side of the paper it prints on.

If you have the patience, I would strongly encourage you to take the extra few minutes and make a Google Template. To do this, make another copy of your document and take out your personal info. In the text and image boxes, sometimes it’s helpful to type “Name” or “Insert Logo Here”, etc, so future users can get a better gist of how it is set up.

Go to https://drive.google.com/templates# and choose “My Templates” and upload it. Label it effectively and give a thorough description. If we work together and spread the effort around and share ideas, we can make the world a better place! 8-)

The Dirty Dozen and the Clean Fifteen

Photo collage of lettuce, oranges, lemons, limes, green and red apples, cherry tomatoes, purples, green and red, grapes, bananas, and melons

Dirty Dozen: The 12 Most Contaminated Fruits & Vegetables; Buy These Organic

1. Nectarines (97% tested positive for pesticides)
2. Peaches (94%)
3. Celery (94%)
4. Pears (94%)
5. Apples (92%)
6. Cherries (91%)
7. Strawberries (90%)
8. Imported grapes (86%)
9. Spinach (83%)
10. Potatoes (79%)
11. Bell Peppers (68%)
12. Raspberries (59%)

Each of these not only tested positive for pesticides, but from no less than 25 – 45 different pesticides!
Notice that many of these have tender or soft skin.

Clean Fifteen: Least Contaminated Fruits & Vegetables

  • Asparagus
  • Avocado
  • Banana
  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage
  • Cauliflower
  • Corn
  • Eggplant
  • Kiwi
  • Mango
  • Onion
  • Papaya
  • Pineapple
  • Pea
  • Tomato

Notice that with most of these, you eat what is inside, i.e. you don’t eat the skin or outer layer.

Here is a Cheat Sheet you can save and print to carry in your wallet to help you:

How to Deal with Difficult Clients

Animation of Tetsuo, the antagonist from the Akira movie whose arm is turning into a mutant monster from taking pills

I suppose this article could be titled, “How to Deal with Difficult People,” but I wanted to focus on situations where money is involved.

Some people love the way they make income, some don’t really care for their jobs. Either way, for most people, producing income means time away from your family or recreational activities. This means, it would be really nice if we could enjoy our time away from the things we love. One of the huge factors of loving or hating your job is the quality of the human relationships involved in it.

Our jobs could all be a little more pleasant if we set standards for who we will and will not deal with, and what kind of behavior we will and won’t accept from our clients.

Now, when I say clients, this usually means exterior clients like people for whom you provide a good or service in exchange for money, but it can also mean “interior clients”. These are your employees (bosses, underlings, peers) or a third-party you deal with, like the collection agency the company you work for uses, or private tutors coming in to teach at your public school, or any kind of contractor your company has a symbiotic relationship with. These are all people with whom it would be nice to share the same page.

There are three kinds of difficult clients: Complainers, Takers, and Devil-clients.

Complainers

This first type of client is mildly difficult. When you see a Complainer coming, you see a dark rain cloud headed your way. Their lives are filled with drama. Whether it’s the fact that their husband forgot to TiVo “Desperate Housewives” last night, or the Colts lost, or their dog got bit by a fire ant last week, you are going to hear all the details. These are your people who may be reasonably likeable: maybe they bring you cookies or send you a card on your birthday, but when they talk, it is always about something negative, and it is always about them. They are always having problems.

Constantly complaining clients are people who are their own worst enemies. You may feel compelled to be their sounding board, or shoulder to cry on. You listen and are so patient. Then, you give them advice, which they don’t follow.  They get looped back in the same lousy situations, history repeats itself, then here they are again, whining and asking you for advice. This might be cute the first few times around, but pretty soon you are going to get sick of wasting your breath. You might even have a number of clients like this! Guess why? Because you have trained yourself how to expertly give these people exactly what they want, what people in your shoes of higher standards won’t give them. You are training yourself to accept this kind of treatment. Unless you are getting paid a respectable rate to be a psychiatrist, dealing with complainers is not your job. It is a waste of your income-producing time, and a mental energy drain. It’s not fair to yourself, your sanity, your company, or your family.

To deal with complainers, you must determine just how tolerable they are, and if continuing to have them in your professional life is worth it. Sure, for $1000 an hour you can complain all day to me. But for $40 an hour? Eh, probably not. It depends how much business you are bringing me. If you’re self-employed, hopefully this gives you food for thought. This is a determination you must make by outlining how much negativity is too much, based on what you are getting paid.

What makes complainers dangerous, is when they complain about you, or about something they perceive you did. Look up victim in the dictionary and this person’s picture will be there. Often, they are jealous when they see other people happy. They may not show it directly, but somewhere, someone is hearing a backhanded comment about it. “Isn’t it great that Mary is pregnant? Though I’m sure it was an accident. She was drinking a lot of wine at the Christmas party. Doesn’t she still smoke, too? I hope the baby is OK. Ah, I can’t wait until it’s my turn.” Listening to a complainer is a whole different animal than being targeting by a complainer.

As for a worst-case scenario about a seemingly nice client turned horrid whiner, I’ve got a story. I love to use my equine business in my examples because its my favorite industry to talk about, and I’ve touched the most people with it. In my limited professional career as a trainer, as of November 2012, I have taught horseback riding to roughly 750 different people. I am excellent at record keeping. Out of those 750, I have only had issues with two. One was a Complainer, and one was a taker. No potential Devil-clients have made it so far, though I’ve certainly turned people down for business because I knew we weren’t a match.

The first person who I had difficulty with is Complainer Corey Sherrell of Santa Barbara and Clearlake, California. She contacted me for riding lessons and came to her first lesson without incident. She seemed like a lovely, nice person, and I enjoyed teaching her and talking with her. A month or so later, I got a nasty personal attack via a review on a business listing site. You would have though I stole her boyfriend, gutted her cat, and slapped her mama. She chided me for my tattoos. Anyone who has met me or talked to me or read anything I’ve written can tell that I try my darnedest to be person of excellent character, and that I am also a person with a unique visual appearance and will tell it like it is, and I don’t sugar-coat my words whatsoever. I partake in honorable activities such as volunteer work with people with special needs. I go to civic functions like Young Professionals and Toastmasters and business seminars. I never, ever swear or use questionable language around people under 18. I don’t talk about religion or politics, I eat a mainly vegetarian diet, I read the classics, and I don’t wear belly shirts to church (not that I go, but still).

I am sorry, Corey Sherrell, so very sorry, that when I rolled up my sleeves because I was sweatin’ from teaching you so enthusiastically, that you find my tattoos visually abrasive, and that they somehow disqualify me from teaching both children and the elite art of horseback riding, as you so stated in your “review”. Additionally, I apologize for inspiring you to look into me further, via Twitter, and decide that you don’t like my modeling picture. There is nothing nude or shameful (not that nude is shameful, because it isn’t, but I know some people will disagree) in my work. Twitter doesn’t allow it. I am sorry that your boyfriend probably commented on how good I look, provocatively pouting on my dirt bike, or something that turned you against me, and that pissed you off. Pissed you off enough to try to sabotage my livelihood. If it makes you feel better, trust me, 99.9% of the time I don’t look that good. I admit, none of my work is photoshopped, a testament to which I am proud, but I don’t always look like that. I normally look like a goofy goon in sweatpants, mismatching socks, with dark roots growing out of my head. It takes a ridiculous amount of hard work, days of planning, and hundreds of shots and adjustments to get a respectable photo for a modeling portfolio, and obviously, I chose the best of what I had to present to my Twitter followers at the time. So sorry, I never meant to offend you with my appearance, and thank you for teaching me a lesson. Sadness remains in my heart for you, that you, Corey, judging from my personal encounter with you and your nice Facebook picture, seem like such a beautiful young lady with a bright future and a good life yet you hold so much fear in your heart. I hope things get better for you.

I hope that for all Complainers, because that is really where this attibute stems from: fear. Fear not of failure, but fear of success. But, I’ll save that for another article.

If you work for a company and have interior clients that are complainers, it gets a little trickier. First, acknowledge that they seem really distraught, and you’ve notice a pattern. If appropriate, bring up a few examples. If you can’t think of any, just wait, and take notes on their future woes, and then bring it up. The best thing to do is not to get wrapped up in their drama, and not to become the sympathetic ear they run to every times they need to vent. Be courteous but too busy. You  need to take a stand and let them know it sounds like they have a lot of complaints, and you really don’t feel you can deal with all that conversation during your work day. After all, you are at work, right? Don’t you have a meeting soon? Or a deadline? Or a Dr’s appointment? Or are waiting for an important phone call and need you head and ears to be free? Or have an online webinar you’re about to miss? There are plenty of other things you should be tied up in, pick one, and excuse yourself emotionally and/or physically from the situation.

I’m an animal trainer. If you stop giving attention to a certain behavior, whether it’s a positive or negative behavior, and positive or negative attention, the behavior will diminish. By finding compassionate yet immediate ways to halt and ignore complaining, you can make it go away.

Takers

This kind of client is moderately awful. But you need them. Or you think you do. Takers always want a deal. They could be smooth talkers or the could be in your face aggressive, but either way their manipulative ways make you feel uncomfortable. They are movers and shakers and you might feel in over your head when these people are around, because they seem so successful. These people leave no doubt in your mind they will throw you under the bus if it means an advancement for them. Takers can be shysty, overbearing, pushy, and intimidating. They may have a sense of entitlement, and may ask you to do things that are unethical if not illegal.

It’s easy for this type of client to play off the Benjamin-Franklin Theory. When someone asks you to do him/her a favor, it makes you more likely to do him/her another favor rather than that person taking a turn and doing you a favor. Got that? You are more likely to bend over backwards for that person again. He/she is not more likely to return the favor.

This brings me to my second problem-client. Taker Maribel Martinez of Riverside, California bought a two-for-one Groupon Deal I was running when I had a stable in Santa Barbara. She must have been excited, because there are a million stables in her area and yet she picked me! She was one of the first to call me to schedule. Because she lived nearly two and a half hours away and had a hectic work schedule, I agreed to let her just come once and split her coupon with a friend, rather than her coming for two separate lessons, as was required in the details of the deal. Additionally, I had not received my check from Groupon. Although I was privy to wait until I had the money before letting people come and cash in their coupons, due to Maribel’s work commitments, I invited her to come early. I tried to be nice. I tried to make her happy. I let her break the rules so she’d have a good time. All I want is for people to have a super positive experience at my business.

Well, Maribel and her friend got horribly lost in the mountains on her way to my stable, and called me. At first she was exasperated but friendly, as I gave her the address again, gave her verbal directions, gave her the website so her friend could use her smartphone as navigation, and agreed to stay with her on the phone until she arrived. In the mountains, however, cell service is spotty. I left the barn in my truck to go look for them based on landmarks they had given me. I even paid an employee to stay there in case they showed up. After getting disconnected and receiving calls from both Maribel and her companion, I could tell over the phone it was getting past their nap time. Apparently, while I canvassing the mountain roads looking for them, they found the way to my barn. They were really, really pissed. I like to think not at me, but at themselves for being so deficient in getting from point A to point B. From what my assistant trainer told me, they showed up in a huff, screamed at her, didn’t like the parking situation, didn’t like the horses, didn’t like the arena, and so on. I tried to call her back to rectify the situation. I tried to call her friend back. They ignored my calls. At the end of the day I tried  to call one more time, and Maribel’s phone was disconnected, ie. her number cancelled. I wanted to make right whatever they thought was wrong, and now, I couldn’t. I was not thrilled at how she treated me on the phone, but absolutely fuming that she treated an employee of mine poorly.  Whew! Just when I thought that was over, it came to my attention in the next few days that Maribel had dishonestly cancelled her payment to Groupon. Later that week, I got my Groupon check and Maribel’s money, for all that trouble, was not on it. Now, it really was a small amount, but it wasn’t about the money. I had to do something out of principle. I contacted Groupon and it was revealed that there are actually people who run this scam – they buy a deal, swindle their way in to convincing the merchant to accept their coupon, then act like the food’s not good enough, their child accidentally bought the deal without their permission, or they never received the good or services, etc. Whether or not that was the case, or if Maribel was just having an awful time, didn’t matter. Groupon’s fraud prevention team stayed in good contact with me and ended up sending me an additional check for Maribel’s lessons. I never could find anything online about her or under the name she gave me for her friend, which leaves me knowing she’s a taker, but wondering exactly what kind.

Depending on how assertive you are as a person determines the best way to handle Takers.

Identify this type of client. Determine if the chance of them getting you a big break is worth the inevitable fact they are going to screw you over in some way. They want to make a dime off you, and the person ahead of you too. How does this make you feel? If you have low self-esteem, you’ll probably accept it. That’s not good! Work on that. If you are confident, then you can probably recognize what’s going on here and can fade out a relationship with them, or push back.

Some people put up a tough image, but once you push back, they’ll roll over and want to be your best friend. Being a Taker in business, while that is a derogatory way to be thought of, probably is the end result of people taking advantage of them. Whether they’ve been pushed by a boss or “brainwashed” in training on meeting quotas and making sales, or grew up as the middle child, they’ve been funneled into a role of demanding what they want or else getting trampled on. Pretty soon that sense of power grows to no end, full steam ahead, out of control, like Tetsuo in Akira.

If you have it in you to push back and give them a taste of their own medicine by negotiating, talking big, and being too cool for school, you’ll probably be able to handle these clients. If you are feeling unsure, you’re new in the game, or are in any way lacking in experience or skill, I’d say put off these people and find ways to get that experience and confidence. You will inevitably find takers where you find money, so this is the one type of difficult client you’re going to need to handle repeatedly.

In the case of “it’s too late now” and they’ve got your money or your product or your pride and have disappeared into the night, learn from this experience. It may or may not be worth pursuing, but goodness help you, don’t let it happen again,

Devil Clients & the Blacklist

Normally, I aim to be Little Miss Zen, with wise and thoughtful words to share, one who keeps the peace, has the patience of the Dalai Lama, and is surrounded by serenity and joy with my golden flowing hair back-lit by the sun as Enya plays. Even I have my breaking point, too.

From this, I developed the Blacklist. Yes, I actually have a Google Doc named “Blacklist”, and if someone fucks up real bad, repeatedly, I have his or her name and notes recorded to remind me why I will never deal with that person again ever, no matter what. It’s not a long list, but it contains people who are so horrendous, they are not worth dealing with for any amount of money, not even a billion dollars. I would rather go to jail for a year than deal with them again. Yes, I have really met people I feel that strongly about.

Who would be on your Blacklist?

Devil-clients are your nightmare. You can’t even believe people this rude, fucked up, and awful exist. If you really decide you hate them and they make it onto your Blacklist, simply cut ties. It’s that easy. Don’t answer their phone calls, don’t send them a Christmas card, just end it. If you have something that belongs to them, give it back. If they try to contact you or maintain a relationship, ignore them. Block their number on your phone, tell your friends/coworkers you new stance, ban them from your Facebook, whatever. Move on. If you are dealing with someone who is truly that bad, no amount of money is worth keeping them around, trust me. You are probably not the only one who hates their guts, and very well may be one of the few people who will put up with them. But why? Why are you doing this to yourself? If you let them go, free up your time and space and mind, and surround yourself with positive, easy-going clients, huge new opportunities will come your way.

Difficult Clients in your Social Circle

Whether you’re having difficulties with a Complainer,  Taker, or Devil-client, all of this gets more complicated for clients who become your friends or are part of your social circle.

If they are a complainer, don’t let them complain to you. Tell them straight up how their choice of topics are negative and they are earning a questionable reputation. If they don’t get it, avoid them. Fight or flight. Don’t let them complain to you. A dog can’t piss on your tulips if you put up a fence.

Ah, takers. Tread carefully

If they are on your Blacklist, then you need to get really good at ignoring them. Just be polite and abbreviated in your encounters, and use your coping skills to move past them so you can have a good time and advance yourself.

I can remember when I was invited to a grand opening with a “casino night” theme. After socializing and networking over a few glasses of wine with people, I decided to sit down at the blackjack table. Who comes up and unknowingly joins the table? Someone who did me real dirty in a professional social setting. A Blacklister. I considered giving him a real piece of my mind, and boy did I want to punch him in the nose, but I remember the words my mother gave me, “kill ’em with kindness.” I wasn’t exactly kind, but I gave him a slow, close-lipped smile and focused on my game, the witty dealer, and conversing with the other players. And laughing. Not loudly, not obviously, but genuinely enjoying myself just as I would have had he not been there.  Note that I did not excuse myself as fast as possible, I waited him out and kept playing. I finished with the upper hand.

If you must be in the presence of a Devil-client, whether it’s before or after you cut ties with them, stand your ground! Be courteous, but not so courteous the devil-person thinks they are on good terms with you. You want your this person to walk away without anything bad to say about you. “Wow, I’m pretty sure thinks I’m scum, and boy, I really regret treating her the way I did. That was a mistake. She could have really given me a tongue lashing and made a scene, but she didn’t. She’s not a bad person, I guess we just didn’t jive. We’ve gone our separate ways, and shit, this whole thing did not make me look good. Lesson learned.”

Summary

De-shit your life. Decide at what price it’s worth keeping someone around who rubs you the wrong way. Meditate on your priorities. Act accordingly.

My Mom: Cyber Monday

My mom really blew my mind tonight.

She was jabbering away about her adventures Christmas shopping; I wasn’t really paying attention until out of her lips spilled the words, “Cyber Monday“.

“How the !@#*& (heck) do you know about Cyber Monday?!?!?!” I am  floored.

She gives me her sideways glance, “I haven’t been living under a rock, you know.” Coulda fooled me.

Has my mom really been initiated into the Age of Information? Could the prophecy be true? She did just get an Iphone a few weeks ago…

But no, Cyber Monday was just an outlier. She then proceeded to tell me how she wants a Bose surround sound system…so she can really listen to NPR.

After trying to explain to her that the quality of sound is only going to be as good as the input, I could see the glazed look come over her face. I tried to explain that she would hear the difference if she was listening to an expertly mastered, superior quality audio file, but probably not local radio. Not to mention that she could find a comparable system for a better price (I’m really not a Bose girl).

“But my friend Jeanne has one! And she loves hers.” (Certain Connecticut wives would love two pieces of copper wire scotch-taped to a pie pan covered in a used coffee filter if it cost $1000, made noise, and had the Bose emblem on it. Talk about not knowing your ass from a hole in the ground.)

My hand slaps my forehead. Geez.

How to use People-first Language

Glamour shot of African woman, pretty woman in a wheelchair, brunette, blone, with a distinguished gentleman sitting on a box. There is a shaded white background and they are dressed in coordinating black, red, and gray

During my schoolgirl days I had briefly learned about People-first language through some of the student mentoring programs I was involved in. It wasn’t until I got trained as a volunteer at High Hopes Therapeutic Riding that People-first language came back into my life and meant so much more.

Basically, People-first is a method of speaking about others without labeling them.

Because I was being trained to work with riders of different abilities, some with medical issues, it was not only important that we not spew out our best guess of a diagnosis as that is harmful not only to the rider and their family’s feelings, but also potentially illegal, implying medical records were not kept confidential.

We learned if there is a specific facet of a rider that the other volunteers need to know about, to use People-first language. The example given to us in training was, “Instead of saying “the blind boy”, you can say, “the boy who is blind”.”

This separates the need-to-know medical information from the actual person. In the example, being blind isn’t who the boy is, it’s not the main part of him, it is simply one attribute which may be necessary to point out. The reason being, so we can count out strides or give an auditory signal when it’s time for him to steer the horse around a corner in the rectangular riding arena to prevent an accident.

It is human nature to categorize everything in order to make sense of our world. It speeds up processing and helps us make quicker decisions and anticipate what to expect. Still, as humans, it is significantly important to be sensitive about labeling others who may be different.

The most obvious examples are people who are dis- or differently-abled, people of  different skin hues, people with various sexual preferences, and so on.

But how about our acquaintances, neighbors, and community members we are inclined to know a little more about? Like the slut who works at the bank, or the hobo at the intersection, or the cop’s daughter on the hackey-sack team? Hmm, with labels like those, good luck making friends.

Some labels are great, if you’re beautiful, brilliant, and rich. But most people aren’t, and even the most innocuous descriptor can feel back-handed if it hits you just right. Sometimes even seemingly positive labels can really suck the wind out of a person’s sails.

For example, perhaps you are labeled as smart. Normally, this is desirable! But that is the only label you hear. “Get ready to use big words, I’m inviting my smart friend!” “Here comes my smart son; ask him about school.” “You’re too smart for me.” “You’re too smart to do that job.”  “Ha, I thought you were smart!” You just may be so sick of people assuming you have no friends, and if you do they are weird and nerdy and play the trombone and World of Warcraft and plan their next Model UN speech, and all you do is study and you make no mistakes and you know you are perfect and you’ve  never been kissed and you dress a certain way and have your head up your ass with snobbery, snootery, elitism, meritism, no real grasp of the real world or real people, etc…Isn’t being smart just one part of who you are? Maybe you even appreciate being smart,  but you also like dirt biking, reptiles, and tap dancing. You’re a whole person; why does only one facet have to shine through?

Everyone wants to be included and feel a connection to other people. Even the woman with green hair and tattoos on her face. She probably has other friends with vibrantly colored hair and visible tattoos, but I bet she has a lot of friends and family without them. Can’t we have friends who are both alike to us (vegans, blondes, Trekkies) and friends who are different? But can’t we also try a little harder not to make our different friends feel that much more different? Don’t we owe it to our fellow human beings to do our best to make them feel included and similar to us in some way?

Now, I’m not saying let’s stop calling everyone anything and to temper our tongues and walk on eggshells and censor every word we speak. I’m just trying to give extreme examples and say, hey, that slut is actually a girl with family members who care about her, who works an honest job, who walks her dog regularly, and deserves some decency. Next time, try calling her a girl or woman, and use your discretion before adding that she is reportedly generous with her erotic charms.

Consider trying out People-first language, not just with the “typical” groups of people you might think of, but with every person. Put the person first, then, if you must, their most significant attribute per the context. I think that by being aware of People-first language, we can make everyone feel more welcomed, more comfortable, and give those with differences hope that they can change if they want to, or if they can’t, that they will be accepted as none other than a human being.

It is interesting to note, however, that certain advocacy groups actually reject People-first language.

From what I understand, in mainstream Deaf culture, people prefer to be called Deaf, because being Deaf is just another way to experience life and is not considered a disability. It is not considered a negative label, and therefore Deaf culture doesn’t feel that they are being labeled, or labeled potentially negatively in the first place. Calling someone Deaf in this sense seems to simply raise awareness and make it known that hey, there are Deaf people all over the place and they lead totally normal and fulfilling lives. It’s just another way. I can agree with this logic; it’s kind of like saying “that man” rather than “that person who is male”. Makes sense.

Members of a different life experience, the autism rights movement, also share this outlook. To them, being autistic, or being called autistic, is appropriate. They reject People-first language on the basis that it implies that the autism is separate from the person, or the person’s personality. I get this. I think autism is simply another way to experience our world, and it’s not bad or a disease, especially in the case of high-functioning autistic people.

Revered autistic author Temple Grandin said, “If I could snap my fingers and be nonautistic, I would not. Autism is part of what I am…I am different, but not less.”

However, because the spectrum is so wide, and every person determined to have autism is different, with some people, but of course not with everyone who is autistic, there can be a pattern of co-morbid disorders and/or negative differences that I think un-enlightened non-autistic people might think all autistic people have that could make autism seem negative. It is for this reason, I believe if high-functioning autistic people want to be called autistic, they can help non-autistics by making their preference known. However, if you are encountering the family of a low-functioning person with autism (or autistic person), I’d say wait and see what wordage they drop, or just be very sensitive and ask! I think families would rather have someone ask than say something disagreeable to their preference.

Obviously, I’m sure there are many Deaf people and autistic people who do prefer People-first language. I suppose all you can do is your best and get to know them and how they would like their life experience referred to, if the topic arises.

Basically, I believe all people should have the right to label or not label themselves, and accept or reject labels, as they feel fit. This just goes to show how important individual preferences are, but that we should err on the side of being respectful and sensitive to those we categorize as different from ourselves.

If you are being labeled or not labeled and it makes you angry or uncomfortable, make the labeler aware of your preference. Users of People-first language are doing our best here, people!

It is with this that we must scrutinize the Golden Rule (Do unto others as you would have them do unto you) and perhaps trade up for the Platinum Rule: “Treat others the way they want to be treated.”

If you want to learn more, the most unbiased resource I can recommend is Wikipedia: People First Language.

2 Big Reasons to Cancel your Voicemail

Action shot of silver haired man in business suit and tie stomping on cell phone

Whether you are a parent, business owner, or social butterfly, for many people, voicemail is on the A-team of players when it comes to communication.

For me however, voicemail has long gone the way of the telegram. And gosh, do I love it.

As a high-energy entrepreneur, you may expect me to settle down at my desk after dinner with my phone, a pen and a notepad, to patiently listen to and record details of each of the 30 voice messages I got that day. And then take the time to respond in a timely manner to each one before 9pm. You might think I look something like this:

In reality, I’m all over the place. I sometimes eat dinner at home, but not usually. Sometimes I go out for sushi, sometimes I eat at my boyfriend’s, sometimes I eat in bed, sometimes I drink happy hour wine at the local dive bar for dinner,  and sometimes I don’t eat dinner at “dinnertime” at all. But usually, no matter where I am, by the end of the day, I look something like this:

Now, I will tell you that these photos are not of me. A picture of me resembling the first woman doesn’t exist, and the actual picture of me resembling the second woman I have deemed too disturbing for my readers.

Thus, I have absolutely no time or patience for voicemail. Years ago, I had it. Voicemail, that is, not time nor patience.

When I was a student, almost no one left me voicemails, and if they did, I listened to them hours if not days after I had already called the person back. So I heard the information twice, only the second time it was not nearly as interesting.

Then, as an employee of a corporation, a voicemail meant bad news. Either it was going to be a request to come in on the weekend, or it was a notification that someone was sick and I was expected to pick up the slack tomorrow, or  a call to let me know (after hours, mind you) that I screwed something up. It was rarely good news.

The real fun began when I became a small business owner. People would call and leave ridiculously long messages about their life story, or talk so fast or so quietly or so incoherently that you can’t hear what they’re saying, or call to ask if I can perform a service that is not even vaguely related to my business. When I return the voicemail, I am still met with surprise, “Oh, you’re a horseback riding stable? Do you groom dogs? Could you pet sit my Bichon? I’ll pay you extra to clip his nails.” Sure, I’ll take your money, and watch your mop-dog, but really?!?! Ah, then there is my mom. On some days, she would leave seven messages telling me to watch Bill Maher that night, and subsequently call and leave messages asking if I heard her last message. Are there really some people who still don’t understand how this works?

Oh! And goodness forbid you miss a day of checking voicemails. Now, I had it back in the day when your voice mailbox topped out at 30 messages. I’m sure the sky is the limit as of now. People get really agitated if they can’t get through, and hear that your voice mailbox is full. They start thinking either you’re a slacker or that you’re dead, and tell you so when they actually do talk with you. They call their friends who they also know are your clients to see if they can get through to you. Then everyone is wondering where you are, and why you haven’t responded to their voicemail, or why your voice mailbox is full. Then, next week, you get to hear it five different times from five different clients, their story about trying to leave a voicemail.

I love when you get your first business cell phone and make the effort to have a professional, clear, enunciated voice mailbox greeting: “You have reached the voice mailbox of Melissa Miko of HorsePlay Santa Barbara. Please leave me your name and number, and I will return your call as soon as possible.” and you get all these messages for the person who used to have your phone! Now I love all people and international callers, but twice I have gotten phone numbers where the old owner of my phone spoke a language other than English. How are you supposed to tell them they’ve got the wrong number? Apparently the fact that my voicemail message is in English and states my name isn’t enough, because they keep calling.

On my old phone, I got calls from both English and Chinese speaking friends of the woman who previously had my number. Over the next two and a half years (yes, two and a half, because they kept calling for that long), I learned that this woman had developed a disease of the throat and could no longer speak on the phone, and had fallen into a depression and deleted her Facebook account and was ignoring friends and relatives. Poor woman! But geez, delegate someone to let your people know what is up.

Currently its been seven months since I got my new Connecticut phone number, and all I get are a ton of collect calls from Mexico and have not found one person that speaks English except for a debt collector. Fabulous. But, there are no voicemails, because I don’t have voicemail! I only get calls I choose to answer and correct, or to reject, from that same stinkin’ collect call number.

For me, it got to the point where I was avoiding business because I hated doing this stupid voicemail dance. It caused me anxiety, heartache, and feelings of malice. Someone recommended a voicemail-to-text application; I tried it, but it was annoying and glitchy and still took too long. I actually took my phone number off my website for a while, leaving only my email contact information. It’s perfectly appropriate to email someone at 4:00 in the morning and that not be bothersome or weird.

However, then it dawned on me. I called Verizon, and asked them to disable my voicemail. They did. That was singularly the best decision I ever did for my sanity and my business.

If you choose to do this too, check and see if your phone will give the caller the message, “The user of this number has not set up a voice mailbox account.” or if the phone will just ring and ring and ring. See if you can choose, and determine if you are OK with the result. I feel the former seems a little unprofessional and unpolished, and the latter leaves the caller with a dazzling sense of mystery. Like in Boiler Room.

On my website, I generously place my email link in strategic locations, as well as have a Contact Form that shoots your message right to my email. On my site and business cards I put “Please Text (860) XXX-XXXX”. That way, this “unusual language” makes it crystal clear that I greatly prefer a text.

So, three reasons why you should cancel your voicemail:

1. Lack of efficiency. It is a waste of effort on both ends. The caller wastes their breath talking one-sidedly to a machine/data inscribing robot who may or may not deliver the message to the receiver. OK, in 99% of cases, voicemail works, but what if you are out of range? What if your phone dies and doesn’t alert you that you have a new voicemail, what if the system is glitchy? Plus, voicemail opens up an excuse for shady people, “Oh, I left you a voicemail. You didn’t get it? Well maybe you phone’s broken.” (I love hearing this excuse, and confirming that a person definitely, without a doubt left me, on my voicemail, a message, then revealing I don’t have voicemail. Boo-yah, mofo!)

Next, it’s called caller-ID. The first thing I see when you call is your number, and if I know you, I see your personal contact information, like your name. I see that it is you who has called, plus your phone number that will presumably still be working by the time I get to you. I will call you back long before I would ever listen to your voicemail.

And if you have a restricted number? I don’t want to talk to you anyways because you’re either an individual with way too much drama in your life or you’re a marking salesperson who wants my money.

I don’t want to forego a free moment in my day when I can actually call you back to see what you need, and instead wait until the end of the day to listen to your schpiel along with all the others and call you back when I’m worn out and tired and just trying to get through my list. The whole production seems like a huge inefficiency: You call, you wait, I wait, I listen to a recording of you, I transcribe it, I read it, you still wait, I finally call you back, hopefully you answer; if not, the cycle perpetuates.

Voicemail perpetuates a cumbersome service that delivers little value. why not take advantage of a free service? Because it stinks!

2. Stress. People have different thresholds of pain. People have different thresholds of stress. For me, stress is very stressful! The “notification ringtone” of a voicemail curdles my blood, and the anticipatory cold sweat that breaks out leaves me shakey until I can find a moment alone, where I am sitting down, pen and paper in hand, to check my voicemails and see what is so wrong and urgent that the caller had to leave me a message in his or her own voice? If it was a casual question, you’d just text me. If it wasn’t urgent, you’d email me. Voicemail is such a tease, as if our lives are so chaotic that we must strain and stretch and just can’t wait to hear every last second of your message before gulping a breath in time to listen to the next one.

For those of you who say I should just accept life as it is, and have a nice voicemail because it seems professional, and it’s what everyone normal and successful does, I am here to shake things up for you. Submitting to a product I hate is submission of power, and this I do not like! I have been successful without voicemail. I promise you, it has and can be done!

And I know, voice-to-text software has improved greatly since I last tried it. However, I just don’t want voicemail because I don’t want it. I don’t want to be like everyone else. Even if I fiddle with voice-to-text for a fraction of a second, I’m going to be complaining. My eyes are on those programs, just waiting for them to screw up. I’m stubborn. I want to be the successful business owner who is successful despite not even having voicemail! Let’s call it my cause.

I’m sure in this article you can find endless sub-reasons to eschew voicemail, and probably think of some of your own. Whether you decide to banish voicemail from your life here and now, or mildly consider it, or even decide life can’t go on without it, consider not only the output of effort it requires, but also the potential for it to be a stressor in your life. We should aspire to live a life that flows as smoothly as possible.

13 Ways I’ve Tried to Make This Site Friendly to Readers With Dyslexia

Young brunette woman smiling with her hands behind her head sitting at desk in front of a computer

Something that was very important to me when designing this website was that I made it as helpful as possible to people with dyslexia. There are a few people who are very close to my heart that have dyslexia, therefore I want to be able to share my articles with them in the most convenient method possible.

1. The first thing I did was change the background color of my posts from the default color pure white, which is coded as the hexidecimal color #FFFFFF, to a pleasant creamy shade. I use #FDFFED.

2. Supplementary to that, I changed my default font color from true black #000000 to a charcoal gray, #333333. Yes! The letters you are reading are actually gray! But isn’t it easy on the eyes? These first two changes probably benefit all readers since they are so much less strenuous to look at.

3. I then made my font sizes larger. For titles, I changed the size from 18 to 28, and made them bold. I changed my regular-use font from 12 to 16. Another great option I took advantage of was to make the spacing between lines a tiny bit bigger; not too much, but just enough to reduce glare and make each line of text a little more refined.

4. Because I have heard that serifs, or those little fancy things on the edges of some fonts like Times New Roman, are not helpful to readers, I chose the font Arial font family for its clarity. Not to mention, I like it so much better! So sans serif fonts, it is.

As a quick offshoot, Dutch company Printer.com tested fonts for their efficiency of ink and found that Century Gothic topped the list as using the least amount of ink. Times New Roman was second, but only because the letters are smaller and finer than fonts without serifs. Arial was next, as well as Calibri and Verdana. So I would use Century Gothic because it is just so clear AND earth and wallet friendly, but it’s not as widely supported on the web as Arial.

Back to my main point…

5. I try to keep paragraphs brief. Again, I believe this benefits all readers in keeping their place and being convenient to read.

6. I only use one space after each sentence. Growing up I had a friend who learned to put two spaces between each sentence, and it drove me nuts. That seemed to me a terrible and unnecessary waste of space, time, and effort. Too much wear and tear on that poor space bar and your thumbs! That habit harkens back to the typewriter days when letters were set very close so that pressing the space bar twice after each sentence did in fact help define the sentence.

7. I stick with left-alignment. I don’t justify my text. However, once in a while you will see me center something. I am very conscientious when I do this, but sometimes it just must be done for balance and Feng-shui purposes.

8. I use all real, full words. I try not to use shorthand or Short Message Service (SMS) abbreviations or slang.

9. If I feel I must really stress a word, I make it bold. I don’t use italics or underlines, nor do I use all capital letters or have my site in all lowercase. Some people actually use all lower case letters for style, but personally, I think it reflect submissiveness and low self-esteem, but I’ll save that for another article.

10. I refrain from using textured text or backgrounds.

11.Behind the scenes on my web design, I don’t use frames, because as I understand it frames can mess up the flow of an article for people who use an audio reader.

12. Likewise, I really, really try hard not to use graphics with text in them since audio readers miss them. This is really hard since I love funny animal memes, however, usually the text is so brief or the picture is so cute that the meaning of the text takes a back seat.

13. If I write very long articles, I plan to put a topic list at the beginning, so people can scroll through to the sections they are most interested in.

My Header breaks quite a few of my rules: the text is against a gradient, my Trajan Pro font has serifs, and it’s an image file containing text so most audio readers won’t pick it up. However, if you’re reading my site, chances are you know where you are. Because the header is there for style rather than content, I went with it because I found it visually pleasing.

I am aware that everyone who has dyslexia has different preferences and are dyslexic to different degrees and in different ways, however I tried to make this site as user-friendly as possible. I’m thinking of you, guys!

If you have any suggestions or improvements I should make, please shoot me an email or use my contact form and let me know. Again, what works for you may not work for someone else, so I may or may not change it, but I would love your input and your help. Thank you, and enjoy the site!

The Uncopyright or Open Copyright Philosophy

Red henna drawing on a cream background of a sitting hindu god with four arms and an ornate hat, playing a sitar and smiling.

So much of our mainstream, capitalistic society requires that we pay, in money and time, for everything. We work our lives away and piddle away our hard-earned pennies on things like Starbucks and Post-Its and overdraft fees and light sabers for our Angry Birds.

I believe in living free, don’t you? Free to charge a price if we care to, and also free to not charge.

By claiming a work Uncopyrighted or Open Copyrighted, the creator gives permission to the world to use the work as they see fit. For profit or not for profit.

mnmlist.com clearly states the philosophy I share:

“Copyright stems from a protective mindset, one that believes the creator owns his or her work, and must protect that ownership in order to profit from said work. The creator will share his or her work with others, but only at a price, and anyone who takes without paying, or uses it as a basis for further creations, is stealing.

That’s the copyright mindset.

The uncopyright mindset is that of someone who gives without any guarantee of profit, who lets go of ownership and believes the world owns his or her creation. He or she hopes to contribute to the world in a small way, and if others benefit from this contribution, that’s a good thing. And if others use his or her contribution to create something new and beautiful, that’s a wonderful thing.

The uncopyright creator lets go of ownership, because to hold on to ownership hurts the world, and to try to protect that ownership leads to unnecessary stress.

The minimalist also eschews ownership, at least to some degree, and believes owning things doesn’t make him or her happy. Doing things makes him or her happy. Helping others makes him  or her happy. Creating makes him or her happy.”

Since this site is geared to being intellectual, motivational, and (hopefully) entertaining, I feel uncopyrighting my site is one way I can be of service to the public and offer the content written directly on this website for free. Sharing and giving to others is just one of the ways I lead a meaningful life.

If you need to use my content on this site for a report, go for it. If you think a lesson or thought I talk about here could benefit your peers, students, or company, then use my materials to train them. If you think its good enough to include on your own site, go for it.

While not necessary, Credit is greatly, greatly appreciated.  The more people who visit this site help shoot it to the top of Google, they help get my name out there for the benefit of my businesses, and most of all they encourage me to keep producing quality content.

If you’d like to share this site, but like my mom, don’t know how, an easy way would be to copy this link:

www.melissamiko.com

and paste it where ever it is you want to share: an email, your Facebook, Twitter, etc.

If you don’t edit the meaning of the content but want to copy it or use it, you are welcome to credit me, Melissa M. Miko as the author, but it is not required.

My hope is to improve your life, give you a helping hand or tidbit of advice if you need it. It would be cool, that if a small percentage of readers like my writing so much that they eventually buy a book, or come to hear me speak, or become one of my clients or even friends someday. Again, not required, but that would be very encouraging and pleasing for me!

Additionally, if you are reading through one of my posts very carefully because you plan on using it and find a mistake: be it factual, grammatical, spelling, formatting or whatnot, please let me know so I can correct it by emailing me at Missy@MelissaMiko.com. And by all means, please correct or edit it to fit your own usage!

Remember, I am only human and there is only one of me, so it’s not like I have a huge staff of editors and machines and robots and Nazis to make sure every pixel on this site is perfect. But, I aim to be close.

I do have other websites that are copyrighted, since they link to my various for-profit businesses. Also, any products, i.e. e-books, offered on this website that you pay for or download that say Copyright, are. I have to comply with my suppliers regulations so I don’t get in trouble, and hey, I have bills to pay too!

Please enjoy www.melissamiko.com. I hope that the liberty I bestow upon you here helps you in some aspect of your life.

Uncopyright for MelissaMiko.com

Blue copyright letter "C" crossed out with a blue circle and line which is the uncopyright symbol

This blog is Uncopyrighted.

Its author, Melissa M. Miko, has released all claims on copyright and has put all the content of this blog into the public domain.

No permission is needed to copy, distribute, or modify the content of this site.

Credit is greatly appreciated but not required.

 

Terms and Conditions for Copying, Distribution and Modification

0. Go for it. Enjoy.

 

Read more at The Uncopyright or Open Copyright Philosophy.

 

The WordPress theme “CleanResponse” also available for free from ThemeFurnace.

 

A million thanks to my inspirations, Steve Pavlina and mnmlist.com.